David Letterman signed off the air this week after hosting 6,028 episodes of The Late Show over 33 years. The guest lists for the two nights prior to his final show were announced well in advance, but the line up for his last night was kept a secret, and suspense built throughout the week as to who would appear on Dave’s final show.
I watched his last two shows in their entirety. I watched the second to last show because Bob Dylan, arguably the greatest songwriter of modern times, was scheduled to appear and I watched the last show because I too was curious to see who would be featured in his closing episode. To my surprise, the only famous celebrities that appeared on the final show were ten people, each of whom contributed just a single line to the final “Top Ten” list, “The top ten things I’ve always wanted to say to Dave.” Some of the guest celebrities that contributed to this list included Steve Martin, Barbara Walters, Tina Fey, Peyton Manning, and Bill Murray.
What impressed me most about Dave’s final show was that by far the longest segment featured a taped tribute to all the people who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes all those years to help him succeed. This segment was framed as a “day in the life” for the Late Show and showed Dave interacting with all the people who come to work with him everyday but are never seen on the air.
At first I wondered why he was taking all of his precious last minutes of air time showing us people none of us have ever seen before--air time that could have been used to parade more celebrities across the stage. Later in the show, however, as Dave thanked all the behind scenes people that he had featured in his long clip, he explained why he had given them center stage on the last show. Then I understood. He explained that without all of these people behind him he would have not been so funny and he would not have been able to enjoy the success he has enjoyed in front of the camera. He went on to say that these people, the ones we had never seen, deserve all the credit because, in reality, they had worked a lot harder on the show all these years than he had. Dave then thanked his wife and son who were in the audience along with his mother, now 94 years old, of whom he showed a picture as she used to make regular appearances on the show. He thanked all of them for being such a supportive family.
The lesson for me in all of this is the importance of taking time to remember and to thank all the people who make many of the good things in our lives possible and those who support us in ways we don’t always acknowledge. This lesson seems perfectly timed as we, as a nation, prepare to celebrate Memorial Day. All of our lives are possible because of people who have gone before us, working and making sacrifices so that we can enjoy the lives we have.
Who are the behind the scenes people in your life, the people that make what you do and who you are possible? How might you remember them and give thanks to them for what they have done or what they are currently doing? Some of them may have passed on, but we can still pause, remember, and give thanks for what they have done as well.
Much like the crew at the Late Show these people in our lives may go unseen and unacknowledged. This weekend however offers us an opportunity to remember to thank others around us who help and support our successes. While we are doing this it is equally important for all of us to stop and thank the service men and women who now and in the past have served our country, often out of or sight, honoring in particular on Memorial Day those who have given their lives to make our lives possible.
There is an African proverb that reminds us “It takes a village to raise a child.” It also takes a village to create and host a life. What could be a better way to celebrate Memorial Day than to remember and thank those who have given so much to help us succeed on the stages of our own lives, those behind the scenes?